Teaching as a tool to pass down knowledge while promoting self growth
Today the process of learning to play an instrument has changed considerably compared to what it used to be just a couple of decades ago. The internet is an almost limitless source of technical information and – as a result – the general technical level of today’s musicians has risen considerably. What the web can’t provide, however, is the wisdom and insight that only a mentor can convey to his student. Because of that, such wealth of information is often absorbed in a fragmented fashion, like pieces that don’t belong to a broader picture. I have found that, as a consequence, many music students eventually feel lost because they don’t know how to use their skills organically.
In my private lessons I don’t follow the same routine for all my students. Each person learns differently and, as an instructor, I feel that it is my duty to find the best angle to reach each individual in the best possible way. During our first meetings I explore the student’s abilities through a series of exercises or by making him/her play freely on the drums. Based on what I hear I develop a strategy that aims at pursuing both better technique and more musicality. From there on I keep close attention to where the student leans in terms of musical personality and I encourage him/her to dig deeper. During this process I make a point of never forcing a student towards a specific musical direction, the goal is for them to develop a personal sound through their own taste. It’s a balancing act where I function as both a mirror where the student sees his/her own fallacies and a supporter who’s there to encourage them.
The rewards of this teaching method
I find this method greatly beneficial for my own personal growth too, because – in order to make it work – I have to explore different ways to explain the same notions so that they can be fully understood by students who differ in musical goals, sensitivities, personalities and intellectual formation. That’s where my own growth takes place. Teaching can be a great way to reinforce one’s own knowledge and I am not afraid to show the process as I go through with it, because it is an excellent demonstration of how musical concepts are developed. I find great satisfaction when a student struggles with a technique or a concept and I find a way to put it in terms that get across to him/her and are fully understood.
Ensemble classes are another passion of mine. Back in 2014 I founded NY Ensemble Classes, a music school in the hearth of NYC where I and a roster of musicians specialized in different instruments teach jazz ensembles. I wanted to do something special and use a different system for our classes so at NYEC I designed a rotation system where each ensemble gets two teachers: a fixed one to maintain a steady progression and coherency, and a secondary one to broaden the spectrum of information that the students are exposed to. The secondary instructor rotates every few lessons, this way each ensemble eventually gets to study with the entire faculty, getting a wide variety of perspectives on their playing, significant insight on the role of each instrument, and different views on how certain tunes should be played.
Teaching ensembles is just fantastic.
Currently NYEC is inactive because I am in Italy and for the school I function as director, financial administrator, instructor, advertiser, logistics coordinator, manager, customer assistant and more.
Finally I also have some experience in teaching masterclasses. In the past I had the opportunity to teach one that explores rhythmical stability (aka tension and release), develops into designing beats in common time signatures and eventually gets all the way to listening and understanding odd meters. If the participants are fast enough in absorbing the material, the masterclass ends with exploring polyrhythms and analyzing easy examples for the students to play as singles or two groups.
Anyone interested in reaching out to me concerning any of the above can do so through the contact form in this website.